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March 2019

Better Outcomes For Kids

State lawmakers are working to give Hoosier kids more tools and support to build successful futures. Whether in school or overcoming at-risk behaviors, a pair of legislative proposals would help improve outcomes for the next generation.

Apart from their teacher, some students may not have supportive adults providing sound guidance. Legislation would create a pilot mentorship program for older Hoosiers to work with students. This program would provide opportunities for some community members to volunteer their time while sharing their life experiences and skills with students. With these volunteers visiting our schools, they can help guide students facing difficulties or connect them with the right resources before issues boil over. Not only would this program enhance school safety, but it would also enrich students’ lives.

The juvenile system is not always equipped to handle all the needs of troubled young people. Juvenile offenders are more likely to have suffered abuse, and often face higher risks of mental health concerns, educational problems, occupational difficulties, and public health and safety issues. Another bill would establish a preventative program for at-risk youth to help address these issues early on, before they become life-long problems. The program would be voluntary and confidential, and is designed for those referred by school staff, police, court officials, other agencies and parents with concerns about a child.

These programs could offer much-needed support services like mentoring, mental health counseling and tutoring at no cost to families. To track these bills and others, watch committee meetings and view session live, visit the Indiana General Assembly’s website here.

Be Prepared For Severe Weather

While severe weather can happen at any time throughout the year, warmer months mean thunderstorms, flash floods and tornadoes are more likely to occur. With March 17-23 recognized as Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Indiana, consider working on a plan to keep you and your family safe.

To begin, discuss how your family will receive emergency alerts, where you will take shelter, how you will evacuate, and how the household will communicate with each other and outside caregivers. Your plan should be written down and made available to every family member. The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers this emergency plan to fill out or use as a guide. Next, it is vital everyone in the household understands and practices the plan.

The American Red Cross also recommends having an emergency preparedness kit. You can find a pre-made kit here or you can prepare one yourself. A basic kit should include:

  • Food and water for three days;
  • Flashlights and extra batteries;
  • First aid kit and any necessary medications;
  • Battery-powered weather radio;
  • Multi-purpose tool;
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items;
  • Whistle to signal for help; and
  • Cell phone charger and a backup battery.

The National Weather Service issues weather advisories to alert Hoosiers of weather conditions nearby. A watch means conditions are favorable for severe weather, and you should have a plan prepared. A warning means severe weather is likely to occur soon, and you should take action and get to a safe place.

It’s important to be prepared for all types of weather. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security offers resources to help Hoosiers learn more about flooding, lightning, thunderstorms and tornadoes.

For more tips, click here.

Expanding Newborn Screenings

Legislators are working to save the lives of Hoosier babies by adding a rare neurological disorder to Indiana’s newborn screening panel.

Krabbe is a rare genetic disease that destroys nerve cells in the brain and throughout the nervous system. It affects 1 in 100,000 people in the United States. Symptoms can include loss of head control, muscle spasms and delays in typical developmental milestones. In most cases, symptoms of the disease develop within the first six months of a baby’s life and usually result in death by age 2.

While there is no cure for Krabbe, stem cell transplants have improved outcomes for some infants who were treated early. Lawmakers were inspired by Bryce Clausen, an Indianapolis 1 year old, who was diagnosed with Krabbe at 6 months. Clausen was not screened for this disease at birth, and because his diagnosis came after the onset of symptoms, he is ineligible for treatment options.

State Rep. Doug Gutwein from Francesville sponsored legislation that would add Krabbe disease to Indiana’s newborn screening panel. Two similar diseases, Pompe disease and Hurler syndrome, would also be added. Indiana already tests newborns for 49 other conditions, including sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, hearing loss and critical congenital heart disease.

Gutwein led a major effort last year to add spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, and severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, to Indiana’s newborn screening panel. Thanks to early detection through newborn screenings, Hoosier babies born with these conditions now have a chance at a better quality of life.

To track legislation, watch committee meetings and view session live, visit the Indiana General Assembly’s website here.

Lawmakers Fill Backpacks For Hungry Kids

TheIndiana House of Representatives and the Indiana Division of The Salvation Army joined forces at the Statehouse to fill backpacks with donated food items to help feed hungry kids across Indiana.

Between lunch on Friday and breakfast on Monday, 1 in 5 Hoosier kids will go about 68 hours with limited or uncertain access to adequate food. In January, House lawmakers launched a food and backpack donation drive collecting over 200 backpacks and more than 5,300 healthy snacks and kid-friendly food items. The Salvation Army will deliver the donations to local schools across the state.

In addition to the donation drive, House lawmakers launched a social media campaign using #eliminate68 to draw attention to the number of hours a child could be hungry between school meals on Friday and Monday.

By working together with the Salvation Army, we hope our actions encourage others to help fill the gap for those who need it most. Whether you donate to a local school’s backpack program, food pantry or The Salvation Army, Hoosiers have the power to make a positive difference.

The Salvation Army has a longstanding reputation of providing nutritious meals to anyone in need, including through food pantries, meal programs and community gardens. Nationally, the organization provides 156,000 meals every single day. Through our partnership, we want to help contribute to the organization’s massive impact in communities across the state and bring attention to food insecurity for Hoosier kids.

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